S-Cool Revision Summary

S-Cool Revision Summary

Ways of seeing

The novel is an allegory for the repression of women at the end of the twentieth century, and throughout the history of the human race. In doing this it explores the attitudes to women through all times, many of which we now see as barbaric or merely historical events without considering the impact of such beliefs on a person. It is a warning about what might happen if right wing politics takes hold of the West. Atwood uses Science Fiction conventions to demonstrate the potential in an exaggerated and unrealistic way so that she does not have to be grounded in strict reality. It criticises both men and women, rather than just one particular gender. It is an exploration of one woman's state of mind as she undergoes horrific deprivation and violation of human rights. It is also a novel about the dangers of political apathy and the potential effects of inaction. Memory and how people mythologize are also issues, illustrating individual concerns rather than the purely historical and impersonal.

Characters

Offred
Copyright S-cool Begins to regret her previous inaction and apathy.
Copyright S-cool As narrator, the reader feels sympathy for her.
Copyright S-cool Tells her story, perhaps, allowing people to understand the events of history.
Copyright S-cool Appears too meek - she doesn't do anything to help the cause of women during the takeover.
Copyright S-cool 'Steals' Luke off someone else.
Moira
Copyright S-cool A strong character with a force of intent (survival) behind her actions.
Copyright S-cool Symbolises hope and freedom and individualism for Offred.
Copyright S-cool Betrays her supposed ideology at Jezebel's.
Copyright S-cool Is selfish and concerned only with herself.
Fred
Copyright S-cool Tries to be nice to Offred.
Copyright S-cool Probably partly responsible for the death and imprisonment of thousands of people.
Copyright S-cool Cannot and does not show remorse for the previous Offred's death or the suffering of the thousands mentioned above.
Nick
Copyright S-cool Provides Offred with some happiness.
Copyright S-cool Maybe rescues her.
Copyright S-cool Maybe betrays her.
Copyright S-cool Is a shady character, whose motives and desires are unknown.
Ofglen
Copyright S-cool Is a member of Mayday, and therefore fighting for freedom.
Copyright S-cool Kills herself to protect her colleagues: she is selfless.
Copyright S-cool Puts Offred in danger.

Major areas of study

Women and their roles in society

History

Sex

Memory

Naming

Reading and writing

Sample questions

  1. "Although the characters in The Handmaid's Tale are shadowy figures and the plot sketchy, it remains a compelling novel." Do you agree?

  2. What effect does the use flashback have on your reactions to Offred in The Handmaid's Tale?

  3. "Margaret Atwood depicts a world of frightening repression." Remind yourself of chapters 42 and 43, and explore how she portrays control in the novel.

  4. Examine the relationship between Offred and Moira, focusing on their meetings at the Red Centre and Jezebel's.